Left and Right
The ideas ofRiesman and Galbraith, unlike those of Hannah Arendt, belong to a tradition of liberal and progressive thought, but they are a good deal less radical than those of Wright Mills; and they seem to me to neglect, at least in the books I have been discussing, two important questions. The first is that of political power. Galbraith, in particular, seems to assume that the social changes which he regards as desirable will come about automatically, merely as a result of increasing prosperity and the gradual abandonment of conventional ideas. But this appears very doubtful. The transfer of resources from private consumption to public works, for example, raises political questions-of taxation, of the scope of government action, and of the balance between military and civil expenditure-which can only be decided through a confrontation of interests and doctrines. Or to take another instance: it may be very desirable to use some of our wealth to make work easier and more pleasant, but Galbraith does not give any precise indication as to how this is to be effected. One might suppose from his account that American industry was
non-workers, whether these arc the young who are to be educated for a longer period, or the old who are to retire earlier and with higher incomes, he does not seem to recognize fully that such measures may involve a substantial redistribution of income, and thus depend in this way too upon political decisions. The more I reflect upon the notion of a society in which there will be mass leisure, the more I am persuaded that it involves a much greater degree of economic equality than any present-day society has begun to approach. For if leisure is to be the principal element in the social life of the near future then there will have to be provided, on a much more equal basis, the means to use it and enjoy it. It is the lack of resources to make full use of leisure time, among a large part of the population, that already presents us with some grave social problems.